Harold F. Schiffman

Posted February 2023 

It is with sadness that I report the passing of Harold F. Schiffman (1938-2022), known to many of us affectionately as Hal. Hal was also a close mentor of mine and a member of my dissertation committee at Penn. In my early work, and still today, I am influenced by his groundbreaking book (1996) book Linguistic Culture and Language Policy. He was an early theorist in what we today might refer to as 'situated' approaches to language policy that draw upon discourse analysis and ethnography to understand how language policy relates to lived experiences. For any early career researchers who have not read his book, I can recommend it enthusiastically. He was influential in a number of other scholarly areas as well, and I will share some reflections by a couple of his colleagues in follow-up messages.

I first encountered Hal's work as an undergraduate in a linguistic anthropology course taught by Bambi Schieffelin. She assigned his article "The Balance of Power in Multiglossic Languages: Implications for Language Shift," which remains one of my favorite articles. When I got to the University of Pennsylvania to begin doctoral studies, I could not believe my luck that he was there, too. I fondly remember taking his language policy seminar. Hal had an encyclopedic knowledge of language situations throughout the world and would readily and rapidly cite demographic data about languages, numbers of speakers, and sociopoltical tensions in various polities (he was also fond of the term 'polity') during our seminar sessions. I am perhaps dating myself by saying that Hal was the first university instructor I had who taught a course in a fully technologically integrated way, drawing upon a rich collection of materials that he assembled (some of which can still be seen here on his archived website). We now take such technological mediation for granted in our teaching, but in this Hal was a pioneer. I will never forget the rich and stimulating conversations we had in that seminar. He was also a guide to me on the use of listservs and helped me early on to set up the Educational Linguistics list which was inspired by the Language Policy list that he founded. I was honored that he passed the torch of the Consortium for Language Policy and Planning and the related listserv to me when he retired. I also recall the small flourishes of Hal's style such as the cloth covers for his pocket calendar that would always match the shirt he was wearing or his use of a personal embossed library seal on his collection of books.

Hal passed away on December 14, 2022 and the memorial service for him at Haddonfield United Methodist Church was on Saturday, January 28th. His wife, Marilyn, asks that donations in his name be made to Haddonfield United Methodist Church, 29 Warwick Road, Haddonfield, NJ 08033, with Hal Schiffman Moscow Seminary Scholarship in the memo line or connect with https://www.haddonfieldumc.org/give. Hal had an ongoing love of the Russian language and people and a desire to be an agent of peace. In the 1960's he was part of a Quaker peace-making group (the Tripartite Russia Initiative) that consisted of Quakers from the US, Quakers from Great Britain, and representatives from Russia. His church became involved in several ministries with the Methodist Church in Russia that was reopening in the 90s, and he went with a delegation of American Methodists to the 10th anniversary of the Moscow Theological Seminary.

I feel the loss of yet another great mind and mentor deeply.

Rest in peace, dear friend,



Francis M. Hult, PhD, FRGS | Professor
Department of Education
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)